Standards and Certifications

  I frequently get questions from professionals new to wound care. Some are considering certification. Some have earned certification — CWOCN, CWS, WCC, or FAPWCA — and want to understand how it defines their position. These questions are common; perhaps you’ve been asked as well: What can I do with this certification? Is there a job description regarding what can or cannot be done with my certification?

  Perhaps we need to look closely about what certification really means. Certification is a measure of basic competency in a specialized area of knowledge. It means that one knows the theory well. You passed the test with or without a clinical portion of the specialized area. Someone says you are good enough to practice at a basic level. I won’t argue whether this is a 100% reliable statement. That’s not the point of this blog.

  Whether you can do something really depends on your State Board license and its associated regulations concerning Scope of Practice. Let’s say you are a Licensed Practical Nurse. You may have had training on wound debridement, but does your Board of Nursing allow you to perform conservative sharp debridement? Who cares if your job description says you can? You shouldn’t do it unless you are supported by the scope of practice regulations outlined by your specific license. I am afraid many people enter wound care because they are misinformed about what they can do after they achieve certification. Remember: certification is a statement that says one has the entry level of expertise to practice.

  When accepting a position, ask to see the job description. That should tell you what is expected of you. Doing due diligence will help you determine if there are any discrepancies between the job description and scope of practice. Ask your prospective employer, as well as others in the hiring institution, what he/she thinks is expected of you. If you hear the same story, it means the work culture values communication between team members and there is a clear vision. Dig deeper if you hear different. But remember: scope of practice trumps all. It is your license, your livelihood, and obligation to provide the care your patients deserve.

– Cathy Milne, MSN, APRN, BC-ANP, BC-CWS, CWOCN

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